Crew Miss Vital Point, Share Top Spot
- George Pennington
- Sun Jun 6 2010, 10:47pm GMT
In their third game in eight days, the Columbus Crew played as if the altitude outside Denver was perfectly natural. Their play reflected a more conservative approach seen earlier in the season: the attack wasn't aggressive and they relied heavily on their stingy defense, but there were no signs of overt fatigue or mistakes common in such conditions.
For the Colorado Rapids, the altitude was perfectly natural. Yet with players like Omar Cummings, Pablo Mastroeni and Conor Casey at the helm, Colorado's offense never truly took shape and they assumed a defensive posture as well.
At the end of a scoreless first half, it appeared that the Crew might be forced to settle for a point. A draw would keep them one point ahead of conference rival New York, who had just disposed of Chivas 1-0.
The second half offered more of the first half to the point of being tedious. The possibility of a scoreless draw seemed imminent. It was as if nothing could be done to give either side a clear advantage.
Then the miracle happened. Mastroeni lost his temper after a reckless tackle and a ball kicked into his chest while he was down (courtesy of Stephen Lenhart). After reaching and shoving for Lenhart from his position on the ground, Pablo was ejected from the field via a straight red card. Although the penalty may have been harsh, the Crew now had a clear advantage.
Columbus pressed forward, now seeking a road victory that appeared to be clearly within their reach.
Only collaboration of two Crew defenders could make the impossible possible. First, a useless foul committed by Andy Iro against Cummings resulted in a free kick from well outside the box. Second, a defensive effort from Jed Zayner made him appear more like a spectator than a player. As Smith served, Drew Moor outplayed Zayner in the box and headed home his first goal of the season.
Up one player but down one point, Columbus sought an equalizer in vain. When the whistle sounded, the Rapids kept all three points with a final score of 1-0.
Columbus now shares the top spot in the Eastern Conference with the New York Red Bulls at 21 points. The Crew will play again at home against DC United after the World Cup Break on June 26.